Leaching of nutrient cations from the forest floor: effects of nitrogen saturation in two long-term manipulations

Academic Article


  • Nitrogen saturation results in greater mobility of nitrate, which in turn is often correlated with concentrations of nutrient cations in soil solution and streamwater. At the Harvard Forest, U.S.A., under long-term NH4NO3 inputs, a Pinus resinosa Ait. forest has exhibited signs of N saturation more rapidly than a mixed-Quercus forest. We test the hypothesis that increased nitrate leaching causes increased concentrations of nutrient cations in soil solution. Over 2 years (years 6 and 7 of treatment) we measured SO42-, NO3-, Cl-, Ca2+, K+, Mg2+, Na+, H+, and NH4+ in throughfall solution and in forest-floor (Oa) leachate. Concentrations of NO3- in forest-floor leachate increased with rates of N amendment and correlated positively with cation concentrations, with stronger overall correlations in the pine forest: r2 values were 0.51 (pine forest) and 0.39 (oak forest) for Ca2+, 0.45 (pine) and 0.16 (oak) for K+, and 0.62 (pine) and 0.50 (oak) for Mg2+. In summer and fall, the oak forest showed some negative relationships between nutrient cation leaching and rate of N amendment. These contrasts showed retention of cations and N to occur together in an N-limited system, whereas increased nitrate mobility occurred with increased cation losses in an N-saturated system.
  • Authors

  • Currie, WS
  • Aber, John
  • Driscoll, CT
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • May 1999
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 609
  • End Page

  • 620
  • Volume

  • 29
  • Issue

  • 5